Lately, I have been thinking about a story I heard many years ago and relating it to how we may perceive the finished work of the Cross and the Gospel of Grace.
How we see God, how we understand and interpret the Gospel, will either continue to hold us captive or free us entirely. There is nothing wrong with God nor His word. So, perhaps…just perhaps, to experience the freedom we were created for, we need to allow our perceptions to be challenged, our minds to be renewed, and to give ourselves permission to be awakened by the Truth.
And so, the story…are you sitting comfortably?
Do you remember a man called Hiroo Onoda? Of course you do. But just in case…Hiroo was a Japanese soldier during World War II, who remained in the jungle of a Philippine island until 1974. For almost 30 years he continued to carry out his orders and remained in active service: always on alert, always suspicious. A soldier engagaed mentally, physically and spiritually in a war that was, unbeknownst to him…over. He simply did not know that the war had ended and, so engrained was his mindset that when on several occassions he was told so, he refused to believe such a startling and earth-shattering truth. Mr. Onoda ignored several attempts to get him to surrender. Thankfully, after his former commanding officer was flown in to see him, Hiroo was finally persuaded to emerge from the jungle whereupon he handed over his Samurai sword.
So entrenched, perhaps, (no pun intended) in his old way of thinking, he could not believe the war had actually come to an end. Such news was, surely, too good to be true. Given how astonishing this news was, one can completely understand his initial suspicions and distrust. Maybe, there was a part of him that didn’t want the war to end. He was a proud soldier of the Japanese Imperial Army after all, and this was his honourable and deeply rooted identity. The war had come to define who he was. The news of the war being over, therefore, radically effected his identity and worth and his perception thereof. In essense, Hiroo Onoda was told he was living a lie, and the truth – the astounding truth – confronted his mind and his identity and, ultimately, challenged his perceptions of reality.
“Take the red pill, Neo…eh, I mean, Hiroo!” Ok…I may (trix) have lost some of you there.
Perception is key and it is vital we realise that ours has been shaped by many external influences. Ultimatey, through the western church’s embracing of Greek philosophy and the institutionalised religious dogma that followed, our theology has become twisted, and blinded us to who God really is and to the truth of His word. The desired transformation comes about when we have our minds renewed. I, for sure, need that!
Are you teachable? If not, your experiences to date may hold you back from all Father has for you, because, let’s be honest, if what we have understood and been taught thus far is it, then I for one feel underwhelmed at such ‘good news’. Are we still to fight a war long over? Or to put it another way, are we to relentlessly pursue a self-righteousness, oblivious to the truth we are covered in His Righteousness?
The good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is way better than that! It’s such astounding good news, it bypassess our mind’s ability to reason it out. It’s simply above and beyond all we could think or imagine. You see, God is really, no…really, really, that good! The truth of the gospel is not only that the war is over but, as for Hiroo, it has been for a very long time…about 2,000 years actually! Our old religious mindsets may resist, analyse and debate, ad infinitum, serving only to keep us captive. Enslaved to law and that independent existence Adam introduced to us, we determine to prove ourselves worthy of a Grace already freely given! If it’s not free…it’s not Grace! Self-righteousness is many things, but whatever it is or however it manifests, it’s always an illusion.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is entirely about your identity. It’s about the Triune God screaming to the world a love that was hitherto unknown. Through His only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, God revealed Himself to us as our Father! It was always His desire to give you life, to love you, His beloved child and to release you into the fullness of all He is and has.
It can only be good news if it’s finished, right? If there is still something for you and me to do – to somehow by merit (as if!) deposit ourselves where Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have already placed us, through the life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ – then that’s not good news! Such news would be unbearable and cruel. So impossible to live, that to be honest, let’s go back to fighting our war. That, at least, I knew how to do.
To be continued…